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Interactive maps on Tokyo subway

Japan: Travellers on Tokyo’s subway system are getting some high-tech help finding their destinations with the start of trials of an interactive map system. The maps run on 47-inch LCD panels that have been installed at Ginza station in the heart of the city. Three subway lines intersect at the station, which serves around 275,000 people each day heading to and from one of Tokyo’s busiest shopping and entertainment districts.

Travellers can walk up to one of two screens being used in the trial and be presented with an area map. Alongside it are buttons to highlight popular destinations such as nearby banks, ATMs, convenience stores and post offices. Touching one of the buttons reveals the location of these places with an icon, and touching the icon draws the shortest route to that destination.

For other destinations travellers can enter an address. The system covers only the local area, so half the address is already decided and users just enter the two or three numbers that specify the particular area and building in the Ginza area where they’re heading and the route comes up.

Owners of cell phones that support the Felica RFID technology can also get the destination coordinates transferred to their cell phones by pressing a button on the map to activate a Felica sensor and holding their cell phone close to it. Once above ground they can use a cell-phone mapping service to work out their route to the destination.

The maps feature Japanese most prominently, although most of the functions and labels are also displayed in English. The screens are being tested until the end of June.